My name is Lee.
I was always told that I couldn’t make a living from my art. Does that sound familiar to you?
I decided not to listen. I moved from Barbados to attend Massachusetts College of Art when I was 19. I worked part-time to put myself through college, and when I found a job on campus, I was loving everything about my life!
But then decided to start a big adventure – I dropped out of art school, got married and moved across the Atlantic to the UK. I thought it would be fine… after all, I actually didn’t have enough money to pay for my second year of art school anyway, and I would get to finish it in the UK.
Only I never did get to finish. Of course, there was never enough money for it.
I felt lost, and I had no confidence in my creativity, and no direction.
I started working at my home studio with ceramics, but then my son came along. Things changed, and my artwork was left behind.
Money has always been one of the biggest barriers to my art career.
But wait – it wasn’t the only thing that I lacked – can you guess what it was?
There was never enough money for me to be able to finish art school, and because I thought of myself as a dropout, I never had enough confidence.
Believe it or not, money, confidence and creativity are closely connected.
Fear kills creativity.
When you’re afraid of your financial situation, you’re stifled. When you’re afraid of making art because it may not be good enough, you’re stifled. When you’re convinced that you can’t make art and make money from it… you’re stifled.
What did I do?
I went back to art school at the University of Kent ten years later as a single mother.
Yes, I was terrified at times, but I was determined to change my life and finally reach the goal I’d left behind a decade earlier.
I loved it! I finished my Bachelor’s degree with 1st class honours, but I couldn’t stop there.
After that, I went even further and did my MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths.
I even took my 8 year old to my MA classes because I didn’t have childcare!
I found myself studying with people from all over the world who had come to London for the same course as me, but they didn’t seem to need jobs, and they didn’t have children to buy uniforms for.
Who were these people who didn’t have to worry about money?
I couldn’t apply for artists’ residencies, or all the internships that turned out to be unpaid. I couldn’t apply for the gallery jobs that required weekend work.
I didn’t have time to worry about making art for myself; I had to make the rent!
The struggle to support our families is real. I was fortunate enough to get work to allow me to do just that, and since then, I’ve been applying my artist’s mind to the concept of money and personal finance.
Money for artists
Since 2014, I’ve been writing a personal finance blog and I’m also a deputy editor for UK Money Bloggers.
I’ve come to recognise the mental scripts we follow when it comes to art as well as money, and now I’m combining my knowledge in the form of courses and books to help artists who may feel disempowered or marginalised to change their money scripts and market themselves effectively.
The principles that I applied to my own money journey helped me to achieve financial stability, and I know that they can help you as well.